Date: 08/27/2009

School District Perspective on Count Date


Votes: View--> Action Taken:

09:29 AM -- School District Perspective on Count Date

The committee heard from a panel of school district administrators and board members who provided their perspective on the count date issue.

Cheryl Serrano, Superintendent of Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8, introduced herself. She talked about the second count date in February for military children, explaining that it is not full-blown second count. She explained that Colorado has adopted the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children, and talked about how the compact impacts the count date discussion. She talked about the work that is involved in performing the count, saying it is very complex, even for districts that use Infinite Campus and other computer systems. She said the count takes as long as six weeks to perform. Representative Middleton asked for a snapshot of the count process and and asked why the count takes six weeks. Dr. Serrano explained the count process, and the items that need to be in place for an audit, mentioning verification of free and reduced lunch eligibility, letters to parents and districts to track down students, and other information that must be collected. Each student, she explained, has different identifiers that must be verified. Dr. Serrano responded to committee questions, including a question from Representative Middleton, who asked if there are regulatory burdens that could be eased. Senator King asked about the count date for federal impact dollars. Conversation between Senator King and Dr. Serrano around counting military students and federal impact funding ensued.

09:38 AM

Senator Johnston asked Dr. Serrano to describe how the best possible count system would be designed. Dr. Serrano said a statewide system, like the system used in Texas, into which districts would input information, would make the count quicker, but not cheaper. Dr. Serrano went on to talk about budgets and the difficulties that might be caused if money was lost mid-year. She said it is important to not disincentivize districts from serving difficult students. She talked about the number of students lost late in the school year due to military deployments, and talked about issues around out-of-district students. She responded to a question from Senator King about the impact of a second count date, saying many districts have a lower count in February.

09:43 AM

Ranelle Lang, Superintendent of Weld County School District 6, introduced herself. She said it would be enormously expensive for districts to add a second count date. Dr. Lang said her district hires a full-time, full-year employee to manage the count. She explained that the count is so complex that not having a person dedicated to the it would result in a large loss of money. She talked about the audit process, saying if the same process was repeated later in the year, it would be a large administrative burden. Dr. Lang remarked that it is a myth that the count would be very different in a second count. She explained that in the last school year, the district lost 41 students between the October 1 count date and February, and lost 71 by March. Dr. Lang talked about charter schools in her district, and said only six students moved from a charter to a non-charter in the district last year. She talked about the complexity of using attendance as a count, speaking specifically about the impact on attendance of flu and parent-excused absences. She said making sure there is consistency in the count across the state would be very challenging, and said additional funding would be needed to support an additional count date. She stated that October 1 is a good time in the school year for the count to be performed.

09:49 AM

Senator Bacon asked about differences in attendance at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. Representative Middleton said elementary school attendance correlates very closely with the high school drop out rate. Dr. Lang said there is a drop in attendance on a monthly basis that differs at each school level. She talked about how rapidly students disengage when they do not attend school. Senator Johnston described how he managed count date as a school principal, and asked about the data points that are collected that necessitate a full-time employee. The panelists responded, providing a list of the data points that are collected, and talking about the administrative burden at the school level, versus the administrative burden at the school district level. Discussion around these issues continued. Senator King asked whether collecting all the data points is absolutely necessary. Discussion with the panelists ensued.

09:58 AM

Bruce Broderius, Board of Education President, Weld County School District 6, talked about board hiring practices and how those practices align with the count date. He explained that losing five students does not translate to districts losing a teacher or classroom. Dr. Broderius also talked about issues around audits that happen two years out.

10:01 AM

Sandy Rotella, Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Operations at Adams County School District 50, talked about the student population in her district and its mobility rate. She made additional points about the complexity of the October count, talking about challenges faced by districts. She said a student plus seat time equals money, which limits school districts in how they can be creative to meet students' needs. She talked about the audit process and responded to Senator King's earlier question about what data is necessary. Ms. Rotella related the importance of incentives as opposed to deterrents. Ms. Rotella talked about the number of students who graduate at semester, and the impact that would have if there were a second count date. She said the district loses 300 to 500 students each year, and explained some of the reasons those students leave and how school district staff tries to find out where those students end up.

10:09 AM

David Hart, Chief Financial Officer of the Douglas County School District, said his core issue is adequate funding. He asked what problem would be solved by multiple count dates. Mr. Hart talked about the growth of his district and the reasons pupil count might drop after the first count date. Mr. Hart explained that pupil count efforts in his district start in September and that, due to the district's large population, they run year-around schools, so 10 percent of students are out of school on any given date. He talked about the different connotations related to count date and count audits. He expressed concern about the administrative impacts of a February count date. Mr. Hart talked about when hiring decisions take place, and the challenges around adjusting staffing mid-year.

10:16 AM

Melissa Callahan de Vita, Chief Financial Officer at Mesa County Valley School District 51, talked about her district, saying the district does not have a lot of issues around students moving mid-year. Ms. Callahan de Vita said the district count decreases about 1.5 percent between the October count date and the end of the school year. She discussed why the decrease might happen. She said the impact of a second count date would be about $500,000, and talked about what that would mean in terms of the budget if the district lost money based on a second count date. Ms. Callahan de Vita talked about the issues that impact student attendance. She talked about the idea of time as a variable, saying schools in her district are open until 11 p.m. to allow students who work to attend school and obtain a high school diploma. She encouraged the committee to look at funding time. Senator Romer talked about accountability at the school level. Conversation between Ms. Callahan de Vita and Senator Romer on these issues ensued.

10:26 AM

Walt Cooper, Superintendent of Cheyenne Mountain School District 12, said his district grows throughout the school year. He explained that his district continues to accept students through the choice process after the October 1 count date, even though the statute allows districts to refuse, because he hopes they will stay and be counted the next school year.

10:28 AM

Glenn McClain, Superintendent of the Platte Valley School District, said the October count is laborious, and remarked that it requires everyone in the district to pitch in to finish the count. He said the data collected is needed by someone, either at the state or federal level. He identified two separate issues: attendance and count for funding. He talked about complicating factors for small districts, particularly districts that are members of BOCES. Senator King asked about early graduating students, and asked whether those students are offered concurrent enrollment choices in their second semester. Dr. Serrano responded, saying her district encourages students not to graduate, but to utilize concurrent enrollment. She said once students graduate, the district cannot continue to serve them. Committee discussion on this issue ensued.

10:34 AM

The committee took a brief recess.

10:51 AM

The committee came back to order.